Upcoming MLK Day of Service will be largest yet

January 6, 2017 GMT

A record 145,000 volunteers for more than 1,800 community service projects are expected at the upcoming 22nd annual Martin Luther King Day of Service in Philadelphia, according to event founder Todd Bernstein. Bernstein made the announcement during a ceremony held Wednesday morning at the Girard College Founder’s Hall.

Education took a forefront at Wednesday’s ceremony. Children from the lower school choir at Girard Cllege opened the event with a song and rap number. Next, children from five schools unveiled a hand painted 5’ x 6’ mural that will be on display at Girard College on Jan. 16. The mural was inspired by “The Purpose of Education,” an article Dr. King wrote in 1947 for the Morehouse College campus newspaper.


“Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education,” said Mural Arts Philadelphia founder Jane Golden, quoting King’s article.

That quote covered one of the five panels of the mural created by students at Rosa International Middle School. Another panel by students at the Germantown Friends School focused on climate change, with the image of a white polar bear painted in front of the Earth.

“When looking at our mural, we want people to know that we are the machine that can better produce the outcome of knowledge in more positive ways,” said Woodlynde student Vision Johnson.

Michael DiBerardinis, city of Philadelphia managing director, presented the 19th annual Harris Wofford Active Citizenship Award to Mary Strasser. Strasser is currently the acting director of the city’s new Pre-K program. Surprised by the award, Strasser wiped away a few tears as she walked to the podium in acceptance.

Some of the volunteer projects for the upcoming Day of Service will go towards education. Mayor Jim Kenney will be one of the volunteers helping install new book nooks at local barbershops and salons. The nooks, book shelves donated by IKEA, will carry a donation of 18,000 new books. Area locations are also currently accepting school supply donations for the new Pre-K program until Jan. 10. Locations include Philadelphia City Hall, the African American Museum and High Point Cafe.

Girard College will serve as the project site for the day of service held on Jan. 16, the federal Martin Luther King holiday. During the ceremony on Wednesday, Girard College President Clarence Armbrister explained King’s connection to the school.

“Just over fifty year ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. appealed to the hearts and minds of millions as he spoke just outside the wall of our historic campus,” Armbrister said. “We are proud to honor his legacy in our continued role as the host of the nation’s largest MLK Day of Service.”


Volunteers for the Day of Service will wear shirts that bear the image of King speaking to the crowd at Girard College. The energy company PECO will supply volunteers to help sort through clothes donated by Men’s Warehouse for low-income people seeking jobs. Volunteers will also sort and prepare meals for Philadelphians in need.

“The key, I always say, it’s not just the one day,” Bernstein said. “We’ve got to turn this into a lifetime of service.”

Volunteer opportunities for the MLK Day of Service are still available online at www.mlkdayofservice.org.